Beebe names businessman to Game and Fish panel

Associated Press
Ford Overton speaks with reporters at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock, Ark., after his appointment  the the Game and Fish Commission Thursday, July12, 2012. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Little Rock businessman appointed to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on Thursday vowed to advocate for transparency as he joins a panel that has faced criticism over an aborted attempt to create its own rules for open records.

Gov. Mike Beebe named Ford Overton to a spot on the seven member commission that regulates the state's hunting and fishing activities. Overton replaces Commissioner George Dunklin and his term expires July 1, 2019.

Overton, 46, owns West Tree Service and sits on the commission's foundation board. Overton said he hoped to help expand the commission's education opportunities, but also said he wanted to push for more openness.

"I'm a communicator by nature," Overton said at a news conference announcing his appointment. "I am transparent in the way I manage my business and my affairs. I come to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission with no agenda other than to serve the governor ... to serve the commission with honor and integrity and transparency, to serve the citizens of this great state of Arkansas, to serve the employees of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission."

Overton afterward told reporters he wouldn't criticize the commission's past practices. The commission two years ago faced widespread criticism over a plan craft its own public records policies, a draft of which showed to be vastly more restrictive than the state Freedom of Information Act allows. The panel eventually abandoned the idea.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who was among the critics of the aborted plan, said he believed Overton's appointment would help the commission improve its openness after the backlash it faced over the FOI plan.

"That's one of the things I talked to him about as I made this decision as to who this appointment was going to be," Beebe said. "I was assured by him and I'm assured by who he is and his approach that he will improve that."

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Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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